Why Gratitude is the Secret to Getting Motivated

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We all know how good it feels to be thanked for the things we do. Getting a thank you email from a friend is often enough to lift us up and energize us for the whole day. The irony in this magic formula is that it is actually the person doing the thanking that is getting the most out of this simple act.  Being grateful changes how you feel about life.

Think of what you could do for yourself if you turned into a gratitude machine, pouring out your gratefulness 10 or 20 times a day.  Now you might be thinking that sending out 20 thank you emails every day might be overkill.  The thing is, it is not actually the physical sending of the thank you that generates the personal motivational jolt.  This bump of energy comes from the self-reflective process and daily note taking about the people, activities, and situations for which you are grateful.

3 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude

Even though “counting your blessings” on a daily basis may sound simple enough, the power of it can escape us. We fail to capitalize on this free source of self-motivation and revitalized enthusiasm for life.  To stay connected to your gratitude with these three simple things:

1. Make it a ritual

Set up a time to be by yourself.  It could be as little as five to 15 minutes. Just enough time for you to pause and reflect about anything and everything in your life that you are grateful for. Do this by reflecting on daily activities, and then write down at least 10 things for which you are grateful. It can be as easy as a bullet point list. It will amaze you when you look back over your wealth of goodness, especially when you are having a bad day.

2. Be open to the truly amazing simple goodness in your life

The key here is to be open to even the small things in your world that make it a better place.  You will be surprised at what shows up in your life. Take for instance, the smiles you exchange with family members, the water you drink, or the beautiful stroll you took in the park. Once you give yourself permission to take inventory of the (literally) hundreds of miracles that greet you daily, your energy for life can’t help but blossom.

3. Spread the word

Once you have had a chance to open the door to the energy of gratitude you can amplify it by sharing the idea with others.  You will acknowledge small acts of generosity that fill your life, like being grateful for your partner for taking out the garbage. When you start sharing your gratitude daily you’ll experience more acts of kindness that are being directed your way.  When this happens the miracle starts to explode and you see the energy of gratitude coming back from all corners of your life.

The hardest thing about tapping into this quiet secret of self-motivation is just getting started.  Once you start using this powerful, energizing tool, you can lift yourself from the doldrums to a place of endless enthusiasm for life and boundless joy every day.

The 7 Pillars of Yoga

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Yoga is a balancing act in more ways than one. Not only do we have to find balance on our mats (lest we literally fall over and potentially injure ourselves), we also have to find balance within our minds and within our communities.

With all the yogic tenets we follow as regular practitioners, here are seven qualities required of us, both on and off the mat:

COURAGE

In order for us to arrive on the mat in the first place, we need courage. There are a million excuses not to do yoga: too old, too fat, too inflexible, too many commitments, no time, no money. The thing is, the solutions to most of these excuses are relatively easy, and taking the plunge is the first step to improved well-being.

PRUDENCE

Of course we need prudence, using our own wisdom to judge the most appropriate time for our practice. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s a given that we must schedule our practice around our commitments, but we should never devalue the importance of our health and sacrifice it to our work and families. If we lose our health, we ultimately lose our ability to care for others. Taking care of our bodies and mind will enable us to be more productive in the end.

TEMPERENCE

But it’s a fine line. If we become too excessive and obsessive about our practice, it can be just as dangerous as inactivity. With over-doing it, we open ourselves up to injury and/or burn-out, and have no energy for anything else. Therefore we need temperance, the practice of self-control and moderation.

JUSTICE

It’s a constant balancing act, like the scales of justice. If we fall out of balance, this can lead to suffering, either of ourselves or of others through our actions. Justice is a sense of fairness, understanding cause and effect, accepting the results you created, seeing how you often choose your situation and recognizing the principle of karma.

These four attributes – prudence, courage, temperance and justice – are known as the cardinal virtues, which have been recorded since pagan times and probably spoken of for much longer; we find reference to them in the writings of Plato and Christianity.

Sometimes you’ll see fortitude in place of courage, which could seem to be related, as they both imply effort and action. However, fortitude suggests the practice of maintaining the effort rather than the initial bravery; without that initial brave step, we go nowhere.

But this article is about seven pillars of yoga – what about the other three? Deep within the ancient Greek and Roman traditions, we hear of the Three Graces, the goddesses of charm, beauty and creativity. We also hear about the three heavenly graces in the New Testament. Incorporating these graces into our practice, we focus on the following:

HOPE

The virtue of “grace” is often associated with yoga, but the first element of grace is hope. Sometimes people are faced with periods of darkness through poor physical or mental health, and they cannot see a way out of their suffering. Yoga can provide hope for those affected, as it can be gentle enough for the most dilapidating of physical ailments like chronic fatigue syndrome and Crohn’s disease, helping the afflicted on the slow journey to recovery. Yoga can act as a starting point to work their way to wellness, and act as a light at the end of a dark tunnel.

FAITH

There are those who are turned off by some of the more spiritual and religious elements of yoga. Sometimes, I question the authenticity and depth of understanding of some of the teachers; regardless, yoga can be of benefit to all people no matter their beliefs or stance on faith. It’s a proven system that has evolved over thousands of years that has given many people the ability to connect with their bodies. Even the name yoga, which translates as “union,” implies the connection of mind, body and spirit. Devout practitioners have true faith and confidence in yoga’s ability to bring physical and mental wellness.

CHARITY

In the King James Bible, the third grace is referred to as “charity,” but in many translations, it’s simply known as love, our final destination. Today, the word “charity” is often associated the act of donating money and time, but it’s a word that expresses the true nature of giving and sharing.

Ultimately, I think the word love is more appropriate. Not only should we give love to others, but we should also love ourselves. Yoga allows us the grace to find a balanced way to love not just ourselves, but each other.

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